Iraq: August 13, 2004


American marines and Iraqi troops drove Muqtada al Sadr's gunmen out of the center of Najaf. Several hundred of Sadr's men fled into the  Imam Ali Shrine, and fired on marines and Iraqis from inside. Sadr himself  was reported wounded by an American bomb. The Sunni controlled Arab mass media is spreading the rumor that southern Iraq is threatening to secede from Iraq. This has long been the Sunni Arab justification for leaving Saddam Hussein, and the Sunni  Baath party in control of Iraq. The Western media is now predicting that the Shia will rise in rebellion because of American troops fighting in Najaf and around the Shia shrines. But the Shia in Najaf cheer on the American and Iraqi troops trying to clear Sadr's gunmen out. The government tried to negotiate with Sadr, but in July, Sadr's men began to attack police stations and attempting to set up their own government in Najaf. When the police and army resisted these moves, the current fighting began. Sadr says he is doing this in the name of democracy.

The Iraqi government has ordered its troops to clear the gunmen out of the Imam Ali shrine complex, with American troops in support (but not inside the shrine.) In the meantime, the government has been negotiating with Sadr's subordinate commanders, many of whom are not happy with the failure of the current uprising.

Sadr supporters also took to the street with their guns in Kut, Basra, Amarah and Baghdad, but after a day or two of fighting, and about a hundred dead, the Sadr gunmen were defeated, or driven off. 


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